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After Mayor Bloomberg announced a cut of $91 million to the city’s subsidized child care system, CDF-NY joined with other advocates, providers and federations to save the child care system. By publishing reports highlighting the impact of the cuts, organizing parents and providers, educating public officials and generating media stories, the Coalition was successful at saving more than 200 early childhood classrooms, 2,700 family child care seats and thousands of school-age vouchers.
Every child deserves the child care and early education - the "head start" - that they need to get a strong start in life, and to be safe and secure while their parents are at work.
While parents are their children's first teachers, many parents want and need good child care and early education that can help prepare their children for school. More than 68 percent of New York mothers with children under the age of six are in the workforce. In New York City, only 27 percent of the eligible children are receiving care in city-funded programs, and only 37 percent of all children under the age of six were being served in any early childhood setting. This need continues to grow with more families falling into poverty and the continued downsizing of the system. The majority of eligible children in New York City live in communities that are primarily Black and Hispanic. Far too many American children and families are not getting what they need because quality child care, Head Start, prekindergarten, or after-school activities are unaffordable and difficult to find.
Head Start targets the most disadvantaged children living in this country, children who live at or below the poverty line, and children with disabilities and special needs. Since Head Start's inception in 1965, it has reached over 20 million at-risk children and families. Currently, the program is serving over 900,000 children nationwide. New York's 172 Head Start programs receive more than $418 million to provide services for close to 50,000 at-risk children. These are funds that go directly into communities to serve children.
Parents, researchers, and educators all agree that Head Start works. In a 1999 Presidential Management Council report, Head Start got a higher customer satisfaction score than any other government agency. A study by the Department of Health and Human Services reported that over ninety-eight percent of parents are satisfied with how the program has helped their children to develop.
Head Start focuses on children's cognitive development, as well as their social, emotional, and physical development, which is a key aspect of the program's success. Research has demonstrated that children who are undernourished learn at a slower pace, and children who do not have parental support have trouble thriving in school. Head Start addresses these issues. It provides health screenings, immunizations, mental health counseling, dental services, nutritional meals and parental support and training. Children with strong parental involvement have higher rates of school completion and lower dropout rates than children who do not have strong parental involvement.
Children who participate in Head Start programs fare far better than their counterparts who do not. They are less likely to fall behind in school or repeat a grade. They stay in school longer and are more likely to go to college. To find a Head Start program in your area go to http://www.nysheadstart.org/.
Studies repeatedly have shown that quality child care - care that provides a loving, safe, and stable environment - helps children enter school ready to succeed, improve skills, and stay safe while parents work. The positive effect of good care is even greater for low-income children. Yet, in many communities, families cannot find adequate and affordable care. In New York State, the average cost of childcare for a four-year-old is $10,847 a year - almost twice the cost of tuition at a four-year public college ($5,103). Making more quality child care available will help to support a vibrant economy, allow families to find and keep jobs, and prepare the workforce of the future. In New York working families with incomes below 200% of the poverty level may be eligible for help paying for their child care. However, there is not enough funding to serve all the families eligible for a child care subsidy. It is best to check with your county regarding their eligibility standards. For more information about child care resources in your community contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency listed at http://www.nyscccc.org/
Throughout the last two decades, there has been a growing interest in the development and education of young children in the years just before they enter school. Early education has been a fundamental part of the education reform agenda since 1989, when the nation's governors and President George Bush signed the National Education Goals. The first of these national education goals stated that by the year 2000, every child would enter school ready to learn and that access to a high-quality early childhood program was key to meeting this goal. This goal has not yet been achieved, but efforts to help all children become better prepared for school continue. These include prekindergarten initiatives, which are supported through a variety of private and public sources at the federal, state, and local levels.
New York has a highly successful Universal Pre- K program currently serving 60,000 children. New York invested $225 million in its Universal Pre-K program in 2001, up from $67 million in 1998-1999. Since 2001, the program funding has been frozen, limiting it to districts that were already participating and preventing the program from reaching many of the state's neediest districts.
High quality pre -kindergarten programs are particularly important for children in low-income families who often lack access to experiences and resources that promote their successful development. Convincing evidence exists of the benefits of early education for children at risk of school failure, including higher math and reading scores, stronger learning skills, increased creativity, better school attendance, improved health, and greater involvement by parents in their children's education. But pre-kindergarten programs are not only for children at risk. Pre-kindergarten programs help all children enter school better prepared to learn and succeed. For more information on Universal Pre-K in New York, go to http://www.winningbeginningny.org/